Editorial by Jamie Hammack
On Monday the Arkansas House passed legislation to impose a new wholesale tax on fuel to pay for Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s highway funding plan. The plan would also rely on up to $35 million in expected revenue from casinos to increase the amount of money spent on highway projects. The legislation put forward would increase gas prices by 3 cents per gallon and diesel by 6 cents per gallon. The proposal would also include a registration fee on electric and hybrid vehicles. Welcome to our world you environmentally conscience types. You thought you’d help the Earth and save money by buying electric and hybrid cars. Such a registration fee, penalty, if you will, for buying the vehicle, should be enough to make your lithium-ion batteries boil.
With Arkansans already taxed to pay for the roads in the state you have to wonder where are the current funds going? They definitely haven’t found enough of their way to Highway 71 in our county. Mena was founded in 1896. Some may say the road through town hasn’t improved much since. Our local state highway department and crews do hard work that is all too often unappreciated, but they can only work with what they’re given.
I also wonder if our betters in Little Rock ever think of us out here on the far reaches of the state that already pay a premium at the pump? According to the website, GasBuddy.com, on Tuesday the 26th of February, the lowest price for a gallon of unleaded in Mena was $2.12 while the folks in Little Rock could fill up at $1.99 a gallon, Hot Springs had a low of $1.98 and the lucky people in Russellville could fill up for a mere $1.89 a gallon! Now think about how our area log truck drivers and anyone else who buys diesel will feel with a 6 cent increase. Guess who will eventually pay for that increase as well? If it costs more to deliver goods to Polk County it will be the citizens who will bear the brunt of the cost every time we go to the store for a loaf of bread. Who say’s trickle down economics doesn’t work?
Obviously I am no fan of an increased gas tax on the people of Arkansas. I wish the lawmakers would find a better way of improving the roads in the state without dipping their fingers into our already thin pocketbooks. I lived for years in Louisiana, a state that has practically made a sport of raising taxes to pay for roads that never improve. I once hit a pothole near Shreveport. When I emerged from it I was on the opposite side of a drive thru daiquiri shop in Baton Rouge. I’m only half kidding. There is only one thing that will get the attention of lawmakers if you do not want this added tax on our fuel, and that is your voice. If you’re so inclined let that voice be heard. It may do some good. It may not. And if not at least you can say you tried.
Jamie Hammack is the Editor and Publisher of the Polk County Pulse